Literacy is a lifelong learning experience. Children with disabilities may have a hard time growing in this area, but it is possible. There are ways to increase the literacy skills in older literacy learners.
Children without disabilities generally learn literacy skills between the grades of Kindergarten through third grade. Children with disabilities may need more time to gain literacy skills. We cannot give up teaching our students because they have reached adolescence or young adulthood.
As students with moderate or severe disabilities get older, the need to focus on reading skills shift to the need to gain functional and employment skills. This practice is not supported by research. In fact, there is very little research on literacy for children with mild to moderate disabilities once adolescence or adulthood is reached. Functional and employment skills are important to the learner, but so is literacy.
Educators and parents must begin to view this situation with a different lens.
A child that learns something new will have an increase in self-esteem. A new confidence will be built in the child.
Functional and employment skills are important to a child with disabilities. These skills should not be abandoned. They should be taught in addition to literacy skills. Building literacy skills can also build bridges to employment, as well as postsecondary opportunities.
Teaching older students with disabilities will look much different than teaching younger children. When teaching older children, the interests of the child must be considered. If the child loves sports, then focus on sports when teaching the child. Use interesting pictures displaying sports. Create sentences using pictures, along with basic sight words. This approach can be used to teach literacy skills to students that are not very familiar with reading.
The use of pictures with words will allow the child to make connections to the text. The use of pictures can also be used to make connections to the community, as well as areas in their individual lives. This will allow the child to make connection to the text using prior knowledge. These pictures can be used as prompts. Graphic organizers can also be used to guide the process of learning literacy skills.
Literacy skills can be taught to older children using graphic organizers and pictures, pictures, pictures. Make learning fun by using materials that interest the child. This may sound like small beginnings, but the end result is what counts – increasing literacy skills.